A West Richland man caught with hundreds of downloaded images of child pornography said Tuesday he won’t do it again because of how it’s affected his family.
Darrin L. Ruddell, 48, briefly choked up as he addressed Senior Judge Ed Shea during the nearly 1 1/2 -hour hearing in U.S. District Court in Richland.
“Your honor, I deeply regret this, and (am) sorry that it’s happened,” said Ruddell, dressed in a brown jail jumpsuit. “After seeing what this has done to my family and myself, it’s not something I’ll ever do again. I can’t put my family through that.”
Ruddell was a registered nurse with Kadlec Regional Medical Center when the allegations surfaced in early 2016.
Now that he is going away to a federal prison for 11 years, Ruddell said he hopes to use the time behind bars to get treatment and “develop a new trade since I have lost the career that I’ve had.”
Once his time is served, Ruddell said he wants to be able to get a job, “be a productive member of society and help with the burden of raising my kids.”
He’ll be on supervised release for 30 years after getting out of prison.
Ruddell’s sentencing Tuesday came three months after he pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of receiving child pornography.
Your honor, I deeply regret this, and (am) sorry that it’s happened. After seeing what this has done to my family and myself, it’s not something I’ll ever do again. I can’t put my family through that.
Darrin L. Ruddell
His two other charges for producing and possessing child porn were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
The sentence was a joint recommendation of both Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel Holland and defense lawyer Andrea George from Spokane. Shea decided the 11-year term was appropriate after reviewing the sentences in two similar cases he’d handled.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the Southeast Washington Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in November 2015 about 1,480 images that had been downloaded to a wireless account.
Those pictures and videos were later found to belong to Ruddell.
The images recovered from his electronic devices show prepubescent children posed while nude, involved in sex acts with other kids and being molested or raped by adult men and women, court documents said.
Investigators later found evidence Ruddell produced some of the child porn himself using a young Tri-City girl, documents said. The victim was identified and confirmed based on her moles, Shea noted in court.
“Here you possessed thousands of images of child pornography, some images involved sadistic sexual abuse ...” Shea said.
It was a breach of trust for Ruddell to victimize a girl he knew, and disgraceful to download pornography of other children, the judge said. He added that it’s a blessing the young girl has no memory of what happened to her.
George, Ruddell’s attorney, disputed that her client took pictures of the girl. She pointed out that when the girl was interviewed by law enforcement, the girl said she felt safe around Ruddell and didn’t recall him taking the pictures.
The girl’s father shouted a curse word in court and reminded the judge of his daughter’s young age.
Shea later said he’d read a statement from the father and understood his emotions in court.
(The curse) expressed his deep anguish of what occurred, and it’s understandable that the father would … be real angry.
Senior Judge Ed Shea, U.S. District Court
“It expressed his deep anguish of what occurred, and it’s understandable that the father would … be real angry,” Shea said.
Jennifer Dykstra, a federal probation officer, testified that she’s concerned the mother does not believe that her daughter was a victim.
“She didn’t want to discuss the fact that her daughter was a victim and basically told me that she thought the prosecution in this case was wasted,” Dykstra said.
Ruddell initially was charged in Benton County Superior Court. The eight related sex charges were dismissed in May 2016 after a federal grand jury returned an indictment.
He is expected to plead guilty Thursday in Superior Court to his one remaining count for possessing ketamine or lorazepam.
Loaded syringes and a bottle each of ketamine and lorazepam were found in Ruddell’s bedroom closet during a search of his home. Both sedatives are known to be used as “date rape” drugs.
Ruddell had been licensed as a registered nurse since 1999. His license has been suspended since May 2016.
A Washington Department of Health document shows that during a March 2016 meeting with his employer, Ruddell admitted to diverting lorazepam, ketamine and an anti-nausea medication “from Kadlec’s freestanding emergency department where he worked.”
While cleaning out Ruddell’s locker, Kadlec staff also found more than 50 vials or bottles of assorted medications, which were empty or contained small amounts of liquid, the Health Department document states. Those medications included morphine, an anti-nausea drug and a drug that can be used as a sedative or to treat pain.
George on Tuesday said her client had been a Church of Latter-day Saints missionary for two years before he started caring for people as a nurse for 20 years. Ruddell suffered from depression during his adult life, was unmedicated, and at some point his interest in pornography led to child pornography, she said.
Ruddell asked that he be allowed to serve his sentence at the federal prison in Lompoc, Calif. He will have to pay $5,255 in restitution to the Tri-City girl and five others who were identified through the downloaded images.